Swimming legend Dawn Fraser has been voted Australia’s greatest ever female athlete at an awards ceremony in Canberra.
Fraser pipped athletics great Betty Cuthbert and surfer Layne Beachley for the top gong, which was decided by a combination of public vote, expert input from fellow athletes and research conducted by advocacy group Sports for Women.
The Sportswomen’s Ball at Parliament House, sponsored by the Australian government and attended by Sports Minister Kate Lundy, announced the top 100 Australian female athletes of all time.
Fraser won four gold and three silver Olympic medals between 1956 and 1964.
She was also the first of only three swimmers in Olympic history to win individual gold medals for the same event at three successive Olympics, taking out the 100m freestyle each time.
“It really is a great honour and I’m very very proud I can uphold that for women in sport,” the self-confessed sports rebel told AAP.
“To think that I have been voted the number one athlete in Australia, I’m extremely proud.”
Despite her 1964 Tokyo Olympics controversies, which included being arrested for stealing an Olympic flag and marching during the Opening Ceremony when she was told not to, Fraser said she liked to think of herself as a pioneer in the sport of swimming.
“We set examples for the younger generations to follow,” she said.
“Times have changed drastically which has been very good and I would like to think that I was one of those people that changed those rules.”
Margaret Court (tennis), Lauren Jackson (basketball), Heather McKay (squash), Rechelle Hawkes (hockey), Shirley Strickland (athletics), Anna Meares (cycling), Cathy Freeman (athletics), Karrie Webb (golf) and Liz Ellis (netball) rounded out the top twelve.